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STAGE&STUDIO

THE ACOUSTIC MUSICIANS GUIDE TO CREATING, PERFORMING & RECORDING

WINTER 2015

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INSIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

LIVE
LIVING
ROOM
FROM THE

BY JEFFREY PEPPER RODGERS

In lean times, playing


in peoples houses
(and crashing in their
guest rooms) has become
a crucial way to keep
touring and stay solvent

GREG HORNAK

Ukulele sensation Danielle Ate


the Sandwich with Carey Baer at a
house show in Madison, Wisconsin

ne night in August 2014, singersongwriter Sean Rowe walked onto


a stage in Massachusettsbut the
stage was just a platform in the woods, next
to a small hunting cabin, a supermoon
shining above. Rowe and the audience of
around 30 people had to hike across a bridge
to reach the cabin, and everyone pitched in
to carry his gear.
As Rowe dug into his intense blend of folk,
blues, and soul, playing his Takamine through
a Princeton Reverb amp for a bit of ratty dist o r t i o n , s o m e b a c k g ro u n d n o i s e c u t
throughnot the usual loud conversations,
sports on TV, or hiss of an espresso machine,
but rather the trickling of a stream. It was
really nice to hear that at the same time as
the songs, says Rowe. The trees were super
tall, and you couldnt see any other houses.
Theres a sonic beauty when the music goes
through the trees in a forest. It sort of creates
an additional sound. Its like having somebody else in the band.
This woodsy stage was just one of the
unusual settings where Rowe has been performing. He still plays plenty of clubs, but a
few years ago he fell in love with house concertssmall, private shows in homes, where
hosts invite friends and neighbors for an

4 Winter 2015

evening of live music and accept donations


for the performer. Rowes run of house concerts began when he found himself with an
open window of time after finishing his album
Madman (ANTI- Records). Awaiting the
release, he decided to ask his Facebook fans
if anyone wanted to host a show at their
home. The response was tremendous, and he
wound up booking six months of house concerts around the country, playing living
rooms, basements, garages, decks, barns, a
horse ranch, and even a mountaintop. Every
possible scenario you can think of, says
Rowe, I pretty much did it.
House concerts are a longstanding tradition, especially in the folk world. But over the
last few decades, house concerts of all kinds
have proliferated around North America,
from one-time gatherings hosted by fans to
larger, established series that present shows
throughout the year. In these lean times for
professional musicians, playing in peoples
living rooms (and crashing in their guest
rooms) has become a crucial way to keep
touring and stay solvent. Working musicians
have to figure out how to live with a third of
the radio income, says singer-songwriter
Fran Snyder, creator of the house-concert
booking network Concerts in Your Home.

They have to play festivals that pay a lot less


than they used to. Everything is getting
smaller, because the audiences are so fragmented, and there are so many other things
to do besides going to listen to music.
While house concerts are fundamentally a
volunteer-driven, grassroots phenomenon, in
recent years some enterprising musicians
have been working to bring a new level of
organization to booking and producing these
shows. Concerts in Your Home, which connects performers and hosts, is one prominent
example, and now Snyder also runs the
annual Listening Room Festival, bringing a
select group of artists to Florida for a week of
house concertsas well as office concerts,
charity events, and a showcase.
Another mover and shaker of the current
house-concert scene is the young songwriter/
promoter KC Turner, who presents upward of
30 house concerts a year in homes around the
San Francisco Bay Area. For Turner, these
private venues create special bonds between
the performers and the audience. House concerts are growing rapidly because of this connection, he says. Once a fan and artist
experience these magical moments in an intimate, listening-room environment, why would
they want to try to force that in a bar setting?

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

people over. Youre playing for an audience


House concerts are different in many ways
thats already won over because of the
from shows in clubs, coffeehouses, theaters,
environment.
or other traditional venues. First of all, they
House concerts also offer a chance for
are private, invitation-only events. If the show
less experienced musicians to learn and grow.
is publicized outside the hosts own network
Theres an opportunity thats lost when
(via the performers website, social media, or
youre playing for an inattentive crowd: You
e-mail list, for instance), attendees need to
dont really learn if your material is good or
contact the host to reserve a spot and to get
not, Snyder says. You cant get the sort of
the street address of the performance. While
detailed feedback that you get when youre
commercial venues mostly sell tickets to fans
playing up close and personal in a room
of the artist, house-concert audiences are
where the audience is not in darkness. As a
often there because they are friends with the
developing artist, I think thats critical, espehost, and they may not be familiar with the
cially if youre doing understated material.
performer at all. These are all people who
Audiences who attend house concerts
know each other, but most of them dont
generally have the opportunity to meet and
know me, which is exciting, Rowe says. Its
chat with the performers, making them much
pretty special if the first time you hear me is
more likely to buy CDs and other keepsakes.
in that setting. I really dig that aspect of it.
Snyder says he often hears from artists that
Another difference is the acoustic environthey sell two or three times the number of
ment. House concerts tend to be pin-drop
CDs at a house concert than they do at a club,
quiet and provide an ideal atmosphere for
even if the crowd is smaller.
many acoustic musicians and songwriters
At house concerts, the artist usually
or anyone whose show hinges on the subtlereceives all of the suggested donations (typities of words and music rather than onstage
cally $10 to $20), as well as a room for the
theatrics and visuals. You sing one of your
night and a home-cooked meal. Factoring in
funny lines in your song, and everyone laughs
these extra benefits, the income from even a
because everyone heard it, says KC Turner.
small house concert can compare favorably
You get to be in your element and deliver it
to a club date, especially for performers who
how
you intended it 1
without
trying11:28
to win
dont1 have a big draw. They get a break from
ad_AER_trio*_Layout
2015-08-20
AM Page

motels and fast food, and get back on the


road the next day with some money in their
pocket and the satisfaction of having played
for people who actually paid attention.

HANG TIME
Not every musician is cut out for the houseconcert environment. It can be unnerving to
have people listening so intently, and at such
close range, if youre not used to it. And banter
with the audience is essential; just playing your
songs without saying anything would be
awkward, or even a little rude. Patti Dalton, who
runs a series called Pattis Place in her basement in Massachusetts, says, As important as
the music is, so is the ability to connect with
the audience in such a small and cozy place. Its
nice if members of the audience have a question or two to give the artist something to talk
about. [The artists] get the chance to tell
stories they might not tell in a bigger room.
Performers who like to sequester themselves in the green room right up until the
show starts, and then disappear right after,
would be better off sticking to clubs, because
at a house concert, the artist is expected to
interact with the audience throughout the
evening. According to Rowe, It does take a
lot out of you, as far as the intensity level, and
just that youre on the whole time. You have

to be prepared to use your voice that much if


youre a singer. Im real conscious about not
overdoing it.
These informal interactions are part of
what motivate hosts to work so hard to
promote the event, manage RSVPs, move furniture, prepare food, and open their home to
dozens of people. House-concert hosts, says
Snyder, dont just love musicthey love
artists. And one of the big reasons they put in
the effort to host shows is not just for the
music but for the hang. Its for spending some
time with these troubadours, who have great
stories and great experiences to share and
sort of a unique view on life. All of that is lost if
you have a performer who is not comfortable
or gregarious or happy to be around people.

Performers who embrace the social


aspect of house concerts can be rewarded
with some great experiences. Snyder fondly
recalls a day after playing a house concert in
western Nebraska, when the host invited him
to try the favorite local pastime of tanking:
floating down the river in a big tank normally
used for feeding livestock, but outfitted for
the occasion with lawn chairs and a cooler
full of beer. On his annual cross-country
house-concert tours, Turner says he loves
learning about different towns and communities during the post-show social time. I
learned more about St. Louis the other night
than Ive ever even thought aboutand Im
from Missouri originallybecause I hung out
with Clarence, a 98-year-old baker.

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6 Winter 2015

BUILDING A NETWORK
Most house concerts are set up directly
between host and artist, but today booking
services can help facilitate the process, both
in terms of organizing and making connections. In the case of Concerts in Your Home,
artists apply online and go through a detailed
audition process that assesses the quality of
the music and its suitability for a house-concert setting. The performers websites and
promo materials are checked out as well.
Those who are acceptedtwo-thirds of applicants are turned away, and there are currently about 300 active memberspay $300
per year for access to the sites network of
about 600 hosts.
One problem that touring artists face is
that most house-concert hosts naturally want
to host shows on weekendsbut too many
empty weeknights in between weekend gigs
quickly turn a tour into a money loser. Snyder
is trying to address this situation by encouraging music fans to host small weeknight
shows. He promotes Dinner and Song events
(dinnerandsong.com), in which the audience
breaks bread with the artist and then hears a
35-minute concert, and TenTen Concerts
(tentenconcerts.com), which are ten guests,
ten songs, for ten bucks. A string of tiny gatherings like this, which would bring an artist
$100, plus CD sales, and include a meal and a
place to stay, could mean the difference
between a successful tour and a bust.
In the San Francisco area, KC Turner takes
a more hands-on approach. He presents his
house concerts through a network of musicloving hosts who have spacious homes and
backyards, and he takes care of the booking,
promotion, and RSVPs, and supplies sound
equipment, folding chairs, and whatever else
is needed. While there are plenty of venues for
200 or 300 people or more in San Francisco,
Turner provides intimate listening experiences
where artists as well known as Ramblin Jack
Elliott, G. Love, Chuck Prophet, Peter Case,
and Glen Phillips can appreciate the chance to
perform for an audience of 50 to 100 people.
Texas singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo
often plays rocking shows with his band at
clubs, but at a recent house concert, Turner
says, He had no curfew, he could do whatever
he wanted, and he did a two-hour set of storytelling and songs with no microphones, just
right there in the living room. And for the fans,
the back row was only 20 feet away from him.
Youve got this insanely great seat with a legendary songwriter-performer.
Because his house concerts are relatively
small and have no overhead, Turner can take
more of a chance in helping up-and-comers
break into the competitive San Francisco
market. They dont have to book a low-paying
gig with a bunch of other bands, as would typically happen in a club. Turner recently

SAINT JAMES

Top
Sean Rowe
Middle
KC Turner introduces
an open mic performer
at Second Act in San
Francisco, California.
Bottom
A string quartet plays
Beethoven, Dvorak,
and Dohnanyi at a
Groupmuse house
concert in Cambridge,
Massachusetts.

JILL WHEELER

BRIAN CHURCHWELL

presented the fast-rising, young songwriter


Parker Millsap and his band for his first San
Francisco appearance at a house concert with
90 people. They killed it and had the night all
to themselves, Turner says. Every single
person in the room got to hear every single
note, and there was no competition with a bar
or TV or whatever. So their first gig in San
Francisco was pristine as far as connecting
with the audience.

COMING HOME
Whats so striking about the house-concert
scene, whether you are participating as a performer, a host, or an audience member, is its
generous spirit. The love of music shines
through, as does respect for those who dedicate their lives to it.
Artist Glenn Elvig, who hosts the Creek
House Concert series in St. Paul, Minnesota, in
a space that doubles as an art gallery and listening room, typifies this spirit. He takes his
series very seriously, employing a pro sound
system and sound man, and has presented
more than 70 shows with top talent such as
Laurence Juber, Jonathan Byrd, Roy Book
Binder, and Karen Savoca. Elvig got started as a
house-concert presenter after being reminded
about the travails of making a living as a musician. I had a good friend who played a wonderful set at a local club and went home with
maybe $40, he says. I decided that I would
create a venue that made money for the musicians. My goal is to treat the guest artists like
royalty. I think they are national treasures.
Aside from helping to sustain grassroots
music, Rowe explains how house concerts
can create personal connections that are surprisingly deep and transforming. You never
know quite what to expect when youre going
into somebodys house, a space thats usually
reserved for family and friends. I think I had a
lot of prejudice against people from a certain
demographic and with a certain lifestyle, and
[house concerts] broke down a lot of walls
for me. I realized, wow, these are just people,
and everybody has a story. There were a lot
of surprises that I wasnt expectingreally
humbling. Its changed my outlook on people
in general.
7

NOW
HEAR
THIS!
BY DAVID KNOWLES

Mabel

8 Winter 2015

The full line of handmade condenser mics


from Ear Trumpet Labs

Ear Trumpet Labs, the mic


company of choice for a new
generation of acoustic players,
unveils a new studio model.
Meet Mabel . . .

ver the last three years, Ear Trumpet


Labs distinctive microphones have
become the new gold standard
among Americana and bluegrass guitarists for
live performances.
With throwback female names like Edwina,
Doreen, and Myrtle, the retro-styled live mics
are used onstage by such noted acts as the
Milk Carton Kids, Tom Brosseau, and Della
Mae. Now, the Portland, Oregon, company has
unveiled Mabel, a studio version of the line,
designed for recording acoustic instruments
and priced at a respectable $1,000.
The biggest difference is the multi-pattern capability, Ear Trumpet Labs founder
Philip Graham says. Theres also higher
output.
Almost immediately after releasing his
first microphone in 2011, Graham started
being asked whether he could come up with a
high-quality studio version.
It was requested from musicians and
engineers, he says. People were asking for a
multi-patterned mic to do figure-eight recording. It was something Id considered myself,
so I started looking into it.
With the addition of Mabel, the company
has 16 different microphones that it makes by
hand out of copper plumbing supplies and
vintage bicycle parts, including reclaimed
bicycle chains. To be sure, Ear Trumpet Labs
is a boutique operation, selling just over 200
microphones in 2013; double that figure in
2014. The biggest way people find out about
them is they see someone using one of the
mics somewhere and usually ask them, What
the hell was that? It sounds great! Graham
says. I hear from a lot of the musicians that
have my mics who say that its pretty regular
for three or four people per gig to come up to
them and ask about them.

Graham says that he began building mics


in part to try to optimize the guitar and vocal
sounds for his daughter, singer-songwriter
Malachi Graham.
My impetus for getting into this was home
recording, Graham says. I was doing different
kinds of DIY electronics, building guitar amps
and circuitry, building a compressor. When I
started researching microphones I realized
how expensive they were and wondered, since
I was in a DIY frame of mind, whether it was
possible to build your own.
By 2011, he had refined his design, and
opened Ear Trumpet Labs.
Many of our customers come from the
bluegrass and Americana genres, Graham
explains. In some cases, the mics are specifically designed for the kind of bluegrass and
full-band single mikingthe Louise and the
Josephine, for instance, thats specifically
what their strength is.
One happy customer is Della Mae flatpicker Courtney Hartman. I was on the

lookout for the perfect large-diaphragm mic


to use live with Della Mae when a friend told
me about Ear Trumpet Labs, she says. We
loved the Edwina from the first show and now
tour with five of their microphones. Theyve
given us the freedom of large-diaphragm
microphones while maintaining tone clarity
and a high-feedback resistance.
With Mabel, Graham hopes to go toe to
toe with microphones that cost more than
five times what Ear Trumpet Labs is charging.
Still, hes content to grow his business slowly.
I dont ever want to take the company to
a point where I would have to consider the
margins and cost cutting to mass-produce
these mics, Graham says.
My whole intention is to have it be a
workshop. I do want to get bigger, and Ive got
a couple of guys helping me out now, but the
idea is to keep it a craft workshop, and to get
people in who are interested in working like I
am, and do it all by hand with that attention
to detail.
9

Zoom H4n

FLASH FORWARD
BY FRAN GUIDRY

Tascam DR-44WL

10 Winter 2015

10 Ways a Flash
Recorder Can Aid
Students & Teachers

Handheld flash recorders


are still state-of-the-art
ne of the best ways to improve as a
musician is to record your own
playing. Sure, it can be frustrating
and disappointing when you hear that youre
out of tempo, out of key, or out of tune. But
knowing your weaknesses is the first step to
improvement, and hearing a well-played
number is its own reward.
I can remember when decent-quality
recording was complicated and expensive,
but today inexpensive flash-memory recordersat most every price point and with any
feature setare capable of remarkable fidelity. Every music recorder Ive researched can
capture in so-called high-resolution formats,
using sample rates and bit depth greater than
the CD standard of 44.1 kHz and 16-bit depth,
although its hotly debated whether these
formats offer any improvement in audio
quality. All of these recorders can record
compressed audio using the MP3 format and
uncompressed audio in WAV format. Compressed formats take up less room and are
handy for passing around on the internet,
while uncompressed formats provide higher
quality and are preferred if you plan to
process your recordings to create audio CDs
or add such effects as equalization, reverb,
and compression.
In addition to sound quality, youll also
want to consider ease of use (the navigation
of settings can vary considerably), storage
capacity, and battery life.

THE MEMORY GAME


The devices discussed here all use solid-state
memory in the form of standardized flash
cards. Flash cards come in three sizes: CF
(compact flash), SD (secure digital), and micro
SD. The capacity of these cards has increased
over the years, along with improvements in
read and write speed. The original SD card had
a maximum capacity of only 2 GB (gigabytes).
The SDHC (secure digital high capacity) standard increased the maximum size to 32 GB,
and the newer SDXC (secure digital extended
capacity) can reach a maximum of 2 terabytes,
or 2,000 GB. Some recorders are limited in the
class of SD card they can use, so check carefully when purchasing a recorder and flash
card. (Manufacturers generally provide a list of
confirmed compatible cards with the documentation for their recorders.)

BY ERIN SHRADER
Large capacity cards are great for video
and even high-end photography, but for audio
recording, even the smaller flash cards store
a lot of music. CD-standard WAV files take up
about 10 MB per minute, so a 2 GB card will
hold more than three hours of music in
uncompressed WAV format. Compressed MP3
formats are even smaller, and the size can be
adjusted by selecting different compression
levels, specified as bit rate in kilobits per
second (kbps). For instance, five minutes of
music would create a 50 MB WAV file, while a
128-kbps MP3 file would be only 5 MB; at the
highest bit rate of 320 kbps, the compressed
file will be about 10 MB. Theres a quality
tradeoff for smaller file sizes, of course. In
general, the 320-kbps MP3 is audibly the same
as a WAV file, while the 128-kbps file may have
audible artifacts.

BUDGET CONSTRAINTS
With so many recorders and a wide array of
features available, finding the right tool for
your job can be a challenge. Your first step in
filtering the choices is to determine your
budget, then evaluate the features you need
for your recording goals. Most of the recorders have built-in mics, but most also allow
you to attach external microphones. Most
portable recorders have a stereo 1/8-inch jack
that uses a microphone powering system
called plug-in power, and there are a wide
variety of mics that can be connected in this
way; however, the usual stage and studio
mics will not work with this connection
because they require an XLR input, and condenser microphones additionally need
phantom power to operate.
The least expensive recorders designed
for music have a street price of less than
$100. Both Tascam and Zoom make highquality, affordable flash recorders in this
segment that record in stereo using built-in
mics or external mics through the 1/8-inch
stereo jacks. The Tascam DR-05 offers features including a limiter and clip editing,
while the Zoom H1 is equipped with directional mics for an improved stereo image.
If your budget extends to $200, the
choices really expand. In this range, you can
find recorders like the Zoom H4n and Tascam
DR-40 that support condenser mics requiring
XLR connections and 48-volt phantom power.

1. RECORD YOUR LESSONS


When the lesson is over, its
goneunless you record it.
Todays recorders make it easier
than ever to capture and save
that gem of an insight or to play
along later with your teachers
wonderful interpretation of that
new passage. Parents can use
the recording to help youngsters
practice the exercises taught in
the lesson.

2. RECORD YOURSELF
The best way to get better is to
listen to yourself. What you hear
in your minds ear and whats
actually coming out of your
instrument can be just a little
bit differentor worlds apart!
Recordings hold up an honest
mirror to your ear. But a bad
recording can be more discouraging than necessary, especially
if youre working on beautiful
tone. Todays digital recorders
create clear, accurate recordings
of your playing.

3. PLAY ALONG
You can learn a lot by playing
along with your favorite artist.
Recordings contain information
about style, feel, timing, and
interpretation that no sheet
music or verbal description
can ever provide. Stop thinking
so hard and try playing along.

4. COLLECT NEW REPERTOIRE


Guitarists and fiddlers were
early adopters of mobile technology, lugging heavy cassette
recorders to festivals and jam
sessions in the 1970s. The skeleton of a tune can be reduced to
notes on a staff, but the essence
of style is learned by listening,
playing along, and trying
to match what you hear.
CONTINUES ON PG. 12

11

YOU CAN
BE A BETTER
MUSICIAN.

5. TRANSCRIBE JAZZ SOLOS


Some of todays flash recorders
have features that could almost
be considered cheating: variable
speed playback at pitch, and A-B
repeat functions that allow you
to select and replay a segment
endlessly.

WE CAN HELP.
B E A B E T T E R S T R I N G P L AY E R

BE A BETTER ACOUSTIC GUITARIST

6. MUSICAL SKETCH PAD


Dont you hate it when a musical
idea pops into your head and
then pops right out before you
can write it down? The smallest
flash recorders, the size of a
disappointingly small candy
bar, fit in your pocket.

5 Ways to Avoid
Wrist Injuries

FOR PLAYERS OF VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO, BASS, AND FIDDLE

Improve
Your
SightReading
Skills
BE A BETTER ACOUSTIC GUITARIST

B E A B E T T E R S T R I N G P L AY E R

How to Find the


Right Guitar Teacher

Roland R-26

Tips to
Stay in
Tune
art that always requires an interpreter. Paintings and sculpture you can look at, theater you
can read (better with actors interpreting for
you, but you can still know what its about),
poetry sounds pretty good if you read it to
yourself, and architecture is eventually a
material reality. There are very few people who
can look at a piece of music and know what it
sounds like, and those folks dont do it for fun.
So unlike a painter, who just does whatever he
or she wants on a canvas, we have a responsibility to the composers to not only respect
their wishes, but to bring their art to life in a
manner that reflects us as well. If composers
(lately) didnt want individual interpretations
of their work, they would all just write for
computers. Most, even now, dont. And none
of us should sound like a machine, which is all
repetition and rote without thought is ever
going to achieve.

PLAYER TIP: WATCH THE ACCIDENTAL MARCATO ON DOWN BOWS


This can work in occasional circumstances as a way of marking a note in a place where
you really need that extra clarity and oomph. However, I have heard folks play entire
concertos as though every down bow is marked with a marcato carrotthey take the
bow off the string at the frog of the up bow and start the down bow with a bite all the
time. Please be careful that you dont do this very often! Constant use of what should
be an occasional technique invariably makes the player sound desperate, repetitive and,
frankly, kind of like an angry troll.

you can do it as instructed and it still


doesnt feel right to you, then its fine to ask
what the reason is behind it. Likely as not,
your teacher will have a good explanation,
which will probably make it clear to you and
easier to perform with integrity.
If it so happens that your teacher cannot
answer youor says something like, Thats
just the way its done, well, then, I think you
have the right to do what you want. As the
author T.S. Eliot once said: Tradition without intelligence is not worth having, and
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TEACHERS VIEW?
Some folks wonder about their teachers. this certainly applies to musical traditions
Should everything be taken at face value? that are so ingrained no one has actually
Or should one question their teacher about stopped to think about them for decades, if
things they either dont understand or dont not centuries.
However, I think youll find that most
agree with? Well, I tend to be of the yes
and yes camp. Keep in mind though, ques- teachers will be overjoyed to discuss this
tioning does not mean challenging. For hypothetical diminuendo with you, hear
example, if a teacher tells you to do a dimin- your thoughts, and come to a mutually agreeuendo someplace not marked that way by able solution. The teacher might even disthe composer, you can certainly try it out. If cover something for her or himself. The more

questions I get asked in master classes, the


happier I am. And the same goes for any
answers I get to, Well, what do you think?
The only wrong answer to that question is
nothing.
And now, just imagine how convincing
youre going to be on that phrase, with
diminuendo or not. Youve thought about it,
experimented and come to a decision based
on instinct and critical thinking.
Thats what music is all about.
The New York Times has praised Canadian
violinist and recording artist Lara St. John as
a high-powered soloist. She has made solo
appearances with numerous major symphonies
and performed in recitals around the world.
Her Mozart recording with her brother, Scott
St. John, and the New Yorkbased string orchestra the Knights, won the 2011 Juno Classical
Album of the Year for Soloist with Large Ensemble Accompaniment.

Laras Pet Peeve That Almost Everyone Does


Because They Arent Listening
Lets begin and end with portato. This is fine where its marked
(dashes under slurs), and can work on rare occasions if used sparingly.
However, watch that right handmake sure, in slurred melodic
phrases, that its moving at a constant speed, and not changing speed
and weight in tandem with your left hand. If you portato everything all
the time, which many people do, even entire orchestral string sections
(!), you end up with hesitant, heaving, timid sounding melodies that
are disturbing to listeners, especially wind players. For them, its all
about the connection of notes. Joaquin Valdepeas, the principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony, once asked me after hearing violin
auditions why it was that all the players put an h in front of every
note. And thats exactly what portato is. Sing a scale like this:

& 44

Ah

Now, do it like this:

& 44

Ha

ha

ha

ha

ha

Thats what youre doing when you portato constantly. A whole phrase
like that is really, for lack of a better word, just icky.
Heres a way to prove to yourself that youre not doing it. Say, for
example, if your melody is on the A string, think and play the melody
with your left hand only, but bow the G string so only the open G
sounds. If you can think and finger your way through your melody and
have that G string sound constant, with no letup in sound when your
left hand changes, then youre sitting pretty! However, I have never
met an unintentionally portato-ing string player who can pass this test.
So try this whenever youre portato-suspicious.
Be vigilant! Its a terrible habit.

The
Learning
Game
4 tips on finding
the right teacher

BY OCTOBER CRIFASI

ooking for a good guitar instructor can seem


like searching for a needle in a haystack when
first starting out. While the Internet is chock full
of good (and not so good) video tutorials, nothing
can quite take the place of a good ol fashioned
live, private, or group lesson. Working face to face
with a teacher provides the proper technique and
form instruction sometimes lost when watching a
two-minute tutorial where no one can see what
your fretting or rhythm hand is up to. If you have
decided the time is right to start taking lessons,
the following tips can help you find the best
instructor for your needs.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
Start by asking friends and relatives for a
good referral. Also check with local music stores,
community colleges, and libraries. Oftentimes
community colleges will have an extension or
adult-learning program that offers series of
group guitar classes for nominal cost. Know your
budget before making inquiries so you know
how long of a lesson you can afford (if private)
and how often. Most music stores and private
studios require payment by month, series, or
semester, so make sure to find out about cancellation and refund policies before you commit, as
they vary from studio to studio.

DECIDE WHAT
YOU WANT TO LEARN
If you are interested in learning a specific style,
technique or genre, find out if the instructor has
experience playing and teaching it. While most
instructors have experience with a variety of
styles, many have a specific genre which he or
she is best and most comfortable teaching. Be
clear with prospective teachers about what youd
like to learn and have a few short-term goals in
mind when you do. This helps both of you decide
if the match makes sense. Short-term goals also
provide a great way to assess if you are making
progress with an instructor once lessons
commence.

KNOW YOUR LEARNING STYLE


Teaching styles and methods vary widely
among instructors, so think about what approach
would work best for you. If you prefer a more
structured approach with weekly assignments in
different areas, private lessons are the way to go.
Group lessons are great for strengthening
listening skills, strumming and singing simultaneously, and keeping time with other players.
They can also provide support and feedback
when learning something particularly challenging. Private lessons, on the other hand,
provide an opportunity for focused one-on-one
attention, which might not always be possible in
a larger group class situation.

SCHEDULE AN
INTRODUCTORY LESSON
The only way to know if a teacher is right for you
is to take a lesson with him or her. To get the best
use of the lesson time, talk through your interests on the phone or via email in advance of
actual lesson time. This allows your lesson time
to be spent actually playing guitar and getting a
good sense of the instructors teaching style,
versus talking through the entire time.
A few things to consider after the first lesson:
Did you feel comfortable asking questions in the
lesson? Did you leave the lesson with an assignment that challenged you and inspired to practice? Did you learn something new? Did you like
the teachers approach? If you left the lesson
feeling less than inspired or that your lesson was
spent watching your teacher play or noodle
around on the fretboard for 25 of the 30 minutes,
you might want to consider taking lessons with
someone else.
The one thing to keep in mind as you go
through the search process is you are always free
to switch to another teacher if you find things not
working out with your instructor. There is usually
more than one guitar teacher in any given area,
so take an introductory lesson when possible
with as many instructors as you need to find the
right one for you.
AG

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12 Winter 2015

7. AUDITION & RECITAL


RECORDINGS

FOR PLAYERS OF VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO, BASS, AND FIDDLE

Only a short time ago, these features were


limited to professional studios, but today
theyre in the palm of your hand. Other features in this segment include overdubbing
and multitrack recording, although the user
interface for such features in a compact
recorder can be a bit challenging. Zoom offers
surround recording in their H2n with a combination of XY and mid-side mic arrays, while
Tascam has recently released the DR-22WL
with Wi-Fi control and file transfer using your
smartphone.
When you look at the next segment, up to
$300, there are some very interesting tools.
The Zoom H5 lets you swap attached mics
among XY, mid-side, and shotgun modules,
along with two XLR inputs and four-channel
recording. The Tascam DR44-WL adds Wi-Fi
control along with four-channel recording
using attached stereo mics and dual XLR
inputs. The Sony PCM-M10 is known for its
amazing battery life and low self-noise.
Above $300, you get to some real powerhouse recorders. The Zoom H6 and Roland
R-26 are six-track handheld recorders, great
for capturing small groups. The Marantz
PMD661 MKII, Fostex FR-2LE, and Sony PCMD100 capture two channels of pristine audio.
Only the Sony includes built-in mics in this
group, but the other two are worthy of the
finest external condenser mics and offer XLR
inputs and phantom power to operate them.
In this golden age of compact recorders,
you can buy an impressive device for the
price of a nice instrument caseone that fits
in your hand and captures every nuance of
your playing.

The prescreening recording is


often the first step toward acceptance at the music school or festival of your choice. For the price
of a few hours of studio time, you
can get a recorder that will make
a high-quality demo without the
pressure of the clock ticking. The
more robust flash recorders can
make broadcast-quality recital
recordings with the addition of
a couple of good microphones.

8. RECORD YOUR GIGS


Think the band sounds great?
Find out for real by recording
your gigs. If you managed to
capture some of those magic
moments, pop it up on your
website or fan page.

9. SHARE YOUR MUSIC


Unless you were lucky enough
to land a tenured position in
a major orchestra or university,
a musician is always looking for
a job. Self-promotion is key, and
having sound samples on your
website is crucial. With the internets global reach, you never
know whos listening.

10. CHOOSE YOUR NEXT


INSTRUMENT OR BOW
A professional musician from
California looking for a new
instrument took a digital recorder
along on a shopping trip back
east. After trying several fine
instruments, he recorded himself
playing his favorites. Listening
to the recordings later confirmed
his opinions, and he made a purchase based purely on sound.

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With all of this in one rugged, lasta-lifetime, portable floor unit, your
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for complete details, visit www.gracedesign.com

MUST-HAVE BOOKS FOR THE ACOUSTIC MUSICIAN

THE HOME RECORDING


HANDBOOK
by Dave Hunter

Author Dave Hunter


shows you how to make
pro-sounding recordings
without pro budgets.
00332982 Hardcover/CD...$29.99

ZEN AND THE ART


OF RECORDING
by Mixerman

Mixerman distills the


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Hundreds of titles available!

ALAN PARSONS
ART & SCIENCE OF
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HANDBOOK
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This second edition is


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This is a proactive,
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13

ACOUSTIC GUITAR
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ADVERTISER INDEX
Fishman Transducers, fishman.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

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Ear Trumpet Labs, eartrumpetlabs.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Miniflex Innovations, miniflexmic.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Stringletter, Inc., acousticguitar.com, ukulelemag.com,


allthingsstrings.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

String Swing MFG, Inc., stringswing.com . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

14 Winter 2015

EarTrumpetLabs-Stringletter_HOC.indd 1

9/8/15 10:58 AM

WELCOME TO

STAGE&STUDIO
THE ACOUSTIC MUSICIANS GUIDE TO CREATING, PERFORMING & RECORDING

WINTER 2015

LET US KNOW
HOW YOU LIKE
STAGE & STUDIO.
Drop us a line at
stageandstudio@
stringletter.com.
And look for the next
edition in any of these
upcoming issues of
Stringletter magazines:

EAR TRUMPET LABS


BUILDS HIGH-QUALITY MICS
FROM RECYCLED PARTS

HEAR

NOW

FEBRUARY 2016

THIS!

FEBRUARY 2016

SPRING 2016

SPRING 2016
PLUS
HOW TO BE
SUCCESSFUL
ON THE
HOUSE
CONCERT
CIRCUIT

WHY HANDHELD FLASH


RECORDERS
ARE STILL A
GREAT TOOL
FOR MUSICIANS

001_Cover_Final.indd 1

9/8/15 4:52 PM

YOU LOVE PLAYING YOUR INSTRUMENT.


THATS WHY YOURE READING THIS MAGAZINE.
TALLEST MAN ON EARTH | SARAH MCQUAID | JD SOUTHER | ED HELMS

And because theres a lot more to your music than


your instrument alonenow youre reading this special
supplement called STAGE & STUDIO.

JAMES
TAYLOR
BACK IN THE DRIVERS SEAT
AFTER 13 YEARS

A COUCH
POTATOS
GUIDE TO
GUITAR
PLAYING

NEW GEAR
TAYLORS
REVAMPED 914CE
MRIDA
MASTER SERIES 75D
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Were here to help you . . .

WIN

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& TC HELICON
PRIZES!

FALL 2015

create
record
perform
compose

arrange
practice
learn
teach

3 SONGS

ALICE IN CHAINS
Nutshell
BOB DYLAN
House of the Rising Sun
EARL BELL
Travelin Blues

OCTOBER 2015 | ACOUSTICGUITAR.COM

notate
share
and
market
your music.

THE HAWAII ISSUE

SPECIAL FOCUS: GUITAR EDUCATION

CLASSICAL GUITAR
3 SONGS
MARRY ME
TRAIN

REMEMBERING
MANUEL
MOLINA

GEAR REVIEW
Mrida Extrema
Trajan T25-CES

DESTINATION HAWAII
Exploring the Ukes Spiritual Home

DALLAS RAG
DALLAS STRING BAND
NA PANA `ELUA
DANIEL HO

ADVENTURES IN
PREPARED GUITAR

THE BOLD
COMPOSER/GUITARIST
DEFIES CONVENTIONS

ROLAND
DYENS

Maccaferris
Fantastic
Plastic Ukes

GEAR REVIEWS
KoAloha Naupaka
Goodtime Banjo Uke
Ohana OBU-22 Bass

ClassicalGuitarMagazine.com

B R A D L E Y C O LT E N C H R I S T I N A S A N D S E N G E N B E N W O O D S

FALL 2015

UkuleleMag.com

West Coast
Ukulele Retreat

Taimane
Gardner
UkuleleMag.com 1